Below is a review for the latest version of WinDVD. Please take into account the fact that all ratings are for WinDVD Pro 2010. Any features not found in the Standard version of WinDVD will be indicated, and all Blu-ray related features are for the Pro version only.
Below are the specs for the test system used:
- Intel Core 2 Duo E8500
- 4GB DDR3 RAM
- ATI Radeon HD 6850 1GB
- Gigabyte EP45T-DS3R (built-in audio, Realtek ALC889A)
- LG Blu-ray/HD DVD reader drive
- Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)
- Dell 24" (HDCP, connected via DVI)
Installation and setup was pretty straight forward. There is the option of installing the QuickTime player along with WinDVD, and if this is the first time you've used WinDVD, you will also be asked to select a region code (for DVD or Blu-ray).
The Setup options (accessible through right clicking on the main playback area, and selecting "Preferences", or clicking on the "Preferences" button at the top status bar) should be familiar to users of WinDVD. All the usual options you would expect are there. Let's go through the various setup sections:
The General section allows you to change a couple of different options, including how disc resuming works. There are two options for resuming, one to always resume, and one to never resume - what's missing is an option to "always ask".
Here, you can also set to start in full-screen mode, and configure how the playback controls hide (or show) themselves in full-screen mode. OSD can be turned on or off. The disc language options are there, and you can choose to use transparent or normal style subtitles (when transparent is selected, the normally white text becomes transparent). For Blu-ray, there is the "BD-J Mouse simulation" option here. BD-J menus do not support the use of the mouse on PCs, but you can simulate mouse support by enabling this option.
The playback controls section remains virtually unchanged from the previous version. You can set the output directory for capture/bookmarks here. There is also settings for instant replay and one button skip forward. Useful features to quickly replay a scene, or to skip past by the set number of seconds. Parental controls are provided here as well. Languagemate was a feature introduced a few versions ago, basically just uses a combination of subtitles, different languages and forwards and rewinds to help you learn new languages ... a bit gimmicky to be honest. There is also the "Quick Clip Settings", which controls the "video to GIF" function of WinDVD, allowing you to produce soundless animated GIF files from whatever is being played at the moment.
The "Audio/Video Setup" sections also largely remain unchanged, except for the addition of a 3D option to specify whether 3D is preferred whenever 3D media is detected. Some basic audio settings are present here (for more advanced options, things like the number of speakers and such, these are configured through the "Enhancements" panel accessible via the "Tools" button on the main playback control panel). Note that some of WinDVD's video features require video acceleration to be turned off, while high def disc playback seems to require (and seems to cause automatically) video acceleration to be turned on. PAL TruSpeed is still here, allowing PAL DVDs with the PAL speedup (24 FPS film is sped up to 25 FPS PAL) to be played back at "normal" speed with the right pitch corrections. So mostly unchanged here compared to WinDVD 2010.
The region control section allows you to make limited changes to DVD and Blu-ray region codes (assuming your hardware supports region changes). The boring text list in the previous version of WinDVD has been replaced by a nice geographical map, showing the different regions around the world.
The Power section allows you to change power settings for those of you that are using WinDVD on laptops and netbooks. The options remain the same as compared to WinDVD 2010, except for the addition of a section displaying additional battery information.
Finally, there is an Information section which shows some basic information about your hardware (such as which CPU acceleration methods are supported) and software.
As mentioned above, some of the setup options are stored in a different part of WinDVD - these are mostly options you might more frequently change depending on what videos you're playing. These can be accessed via the "Tools" icon on the main playback control panel, and then selected "Enhancements". For example, the screenshot above shows speaker setting adjustments (note that your Windows speaker settings will affect which options are available to you - if your Windows setting is set to stereo speakers, you can only select the headphones and 2 speaker settings here, for example).
The other audio options remain largely unchanged from the last version, but there are a few new video options that we'll cover later on in the review.
So now onto the review proper. Instead of going through the same grounds as covered with reviews of previous versions of WinDVD, instead, the review will now focus more on the new changes.
As expected of a very mature product, DVD playback was flawless, and so there's nothing really to talk about here. Upscaling is supported Except for the addition of two new features: Motion Streamliner and Anti-Shake. Motion Streamliner uses a motion interpolation technique that makes playback more smooth by adding in interpolated frames. Unfortunately, Motion Streamliner could not be enabled for my computer, as it required a certain type of video coupled with strict hardware requirements for it to be available, so I could not test out its effectiveness. But typically speaking, it's not something cinephiles like (due to the ability it has to make film look TV-ish), and some higher end TVs already include similar features.
Anti-shake is added to WinDVD 11 following the addition of exactly the same feature in PowerDVD 10, and it proves just as workable for self-shot footage courtesy of a handy-cam without auto-stabiliser - it's of no use at all to commercial video content.
It appears some of the previously available features have been removed in version 11. Luckily, the ever useful PAL TruSpeed, which "slows down" PAL film content from 25 FPS back to its original 24 FPS, is still present, as is the time-stretch feature that slows and speeds up playback. The previous version had "Cinema Enhancement", "De-Snow", "De-Blocking" and Sharpness, but these all appear to be missing.
Moving on to Blu-ray playback, the including of full Blu-ray 3D support is most welcomed, and finally catches WinDVD up to PowerDVD in terms of Blu-ray support. One slight quirk is that when a Blu-ray 3D disc is played, and if WinDVD has not been set to 3D mode, some discs will stop playback (as designed) as it fails to detect suitable 3D hardware - a better way to proceed would have been to automatically set the 3D mode, as anaglyph 3D is supported by WinDVD, meaning dedicated a 3D supporting monitor/display is not a requirement for basic 3D (as long as you have those blue/red glasses - the boxed version of WinDVD even includes a pair).
Another slight annoyance when loading a Blu-ray disc is that there's no progress bar, unlike in PowerDVD - this makes WinDVD appear to hang while it is loading, although loading times are not too bad (more on that later).
There's almost no point in testing playback performance of DVDs, since any modern computer can handle it with ease. So instead, we'll focus on Blu-ray.
Starting with loading times, apart from the annoying lack of a progress bar, Blu-ray loading speed wasn't too bad. For example, doing a "cold start" test (with WinDVD already started and timing the time it took from inserting the disc into the drive to when the disc played), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 loaded in 44 seconds. This compares well to PowerDVD's 37 seconds. But once a disc has been played in the same session, loading it again was a quick affair. About 4 seconds only, comparable to PowerDVD's 4.5 seconds.
Actual CPU usage during playback was quite low, often hovering between 5% and 15% for Blu-ray playback, slightly higher depending on your audio decoding options. The screenshot of Task Manager below shows the typical CPU usage during Blu-ray playback at 1920x1080.
WinDVD 11: Blu-ray CPU Usage
In 3D mode, as expected, CPU increased. In anaglyph mode, CPU usage hovered around 40 to 60%. This did not compare well to the similar test in PowerDVD, which only recorded an average CPU usage of around 25%. Ironically, the situation was reversed in DVD to 3D upscaling - with PowerDVD recording around 30% CPU usage and WinDVD hovering not a lot above normal DVD playback at around 20%.
New in WinDVD 11 is the "Corel Guide" feature, which basically adds a built-in browser to WinDVD, that allows you to access useful WinDVD usage tips, as well as access Corel's FlixFinder service. FlixFinder allows you to quickly search legal video download/streaming services online, such as Netflix and Amazon. Unfortunately, the browser's speed is quite poor, and FlixFinder failed to find anything on Netflix during my testing. Plus, even if you find the movie you want, a new browser window is opened if you click on any of the movie links, which makes the integration within WinDVD not that quite useful. Corel Guide does give you a nice way to check for WinDVD updates, but that's probably the only time you'll ever want to use the feature.
So in this area, WinDVD continues to fall behind PowerDVD, what with its Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Flickr integration, and integration with Cyberlink's own movie/disc info database.
The interface for WinDVD 11 is a pleasure to use (apart from the odd quirks here and there, for example lack of "ask for resume" option as mentioned above, and also no progress bar during Blu-ray disc loading). It feels very fast, responsive, and it's a huge improvement on the previous version.
The application start-up time is still a bit longer compared to PowerDVD 12, which has really improve in this area, but navigating around the WinDVD interface seems a lot more responsive than in PowerDVD 12.
Opening the various types of files and discs (and DVD folders stored on hard drives) is easy to do via a single button, although slightly confusingly, the "playlist" option listed here doesn't open the playlist editor, but merely allows you to import previously saved playlists.
The frameless playback window is both aesthetically pleasing, and functional, with nothing cluttering up playback. And most of the frequently used functions, such as audio/video effects settings and things like bookmarks and screen captures, are accessible easily. Similarly, the "disc menu" button brings up the frequently used menu controls (return to top menu, subtitles/audio selection).
One of the listed new features is the playlist editor, which features all the basic playlist features you would expect, including the ability to save and load playlists.
But with no home theater mode or Windows Media Center integration beyond having the option to open up the standalone WinDVD application within MCE, PowerDVD is again in front in this area.